Full concentration from driver Tom Cruise Chris Tedesco/Red Bull Media House North America, Inc.

Tom Cruise -- producer and star of Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol -- which opens on December 21, took a break from post-production work to accept an invitation to test drive the Red Bull Racing Formula One car in Southern California on Monday, August 15. David Coulthard, a 13-time Grand Prix winner and former Red Bull Racing driver, served as Cruise’s instructor for the day with support from a 12-person crew, who flew in from the team’s base in the UK.

Red Bull Racing won the 2010 Formula One World Championship and currently leads the 2011 championship by a wide margin with six wins through 11 races of the 19-race season.

null Garth Milan/Red Bull Media House North America, Inc.

Cruise, an avowed racing fan who has driven various race cars over the years but never a Formula One car, reached a top speed of 181 miles per hour, just four miles per hour off of Coulthard’s top speed, when racing the 850-horsepower car around the 2.5-mile (4km) Willow Springs race track in Rosamond, California.

Cruise completed 24 laps during the seven-hour session, which began with Cruise and Coulthard lapping the track in a passenger car to get familiarized with the racing lines before Coulthard showed Cruise the intricacies of the purpose-built machine. Between stints on the track, the team went over the car’s telemetry data with Cruise, comparing it to Coulthard’s lap information. Cruise improved on his initial lap time by almost 11 seconds by the final lap.

"Tom's the real deal. I was surprised that he picked it up so quickly and is such an accomplished driver,” said Coulthard. “His recall was incredible considering how complicated driving an F1 car is. He's a guy who really pushes the envelope in real life. This day was not green screened. He thoroughly impressed me."

Tom's the real deal. I was surprised that he picked it up so quickly and is such an accomplished driver.

Formula One is the most sophisticated and popular form of motorsport in the world, with more than 520 million fans globally. The series is returning to America in 2012 after a four-year absence. The United States Grand Prix will be held at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, which is currently under construction.

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